Jesus: The Great Empathizer
[January 20, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
One of the hardest things about the way some churches react to abuse situations is the complete lack of empathy. It’s almost as if because they have their doctrine of “no divorce” they don’t WANT to understand for fear they might end up compromising their beliefs. I felt this very keenly as I was going through my divorce, and at that time I had a thought that of any person in history who has been able to empathize with the oppressed, Jesus was the master. But He wasn’t just a master of empathy, He was also a master of knowing and preaching the truth. We conservatives get the latter usually, but oh how often we miss the former.
So I had an idea, and I wanted to share this idea with you as a good exercise when you aren’t feeling empathy from those who claim they love you. I did a personal Bible study in which I read through the Gospels noting where Jesus was teaching truth and where He was showing empathy. I asked myself who He was talking to and what point He was trying to make. I saw very vividly a truth I’d already known, but it was so encouraging to see it so clearly: the people He spent the most time talking to about the truth were the religious leaders: those who were responsible for the truth and hid it from the world with their abusive doctrines. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees hard (remember the whip?). But when He interacted with the oppressed: always empathy and compassion. He didn’t accept their sin and didn’t even shy away from pointing it out, but I always saw another level to what He was saying. There was a consistent message of “I know you, I understand why you do what you do, and I am here to heal you and set you free.”
It seems we have this backwards, don’t we? We spend time telling truth to the oppressed (“You know that you’re not sinless, right?”) and showing compassion to the abusers of doctrine (“That preacher is so blessed — his preaching makes me uncomfortable sometimes, but he has a solid doctrine and he’s not afraid to challenge his congregation with difficult subjects.”). If we know Christ better and see His empathy, maybe we can become better empathizers ourselves without compromising the truth.
[January 20, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to January 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to January 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to January 20, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (January 20, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]